DALLASTOWN, Pa. — First, and most importantly to some, nobody got hammered.
The St. Paul’s UCC Beer and Bible School was “not a rager,” the Rev. Christopher Rodkey said.
And, for those who want to know, Sweet Baby Jesus was one of the beers on hand.
There also was Yuengling, because this is south central Pennsylvania, along with Dogfish Head, Fat Tire and Einstok, an Icelandic porter.
But, not everyone who showed up for St. Paul’s first VBBS — Vacation Beer and Bible School — came for the beer. Many drank coffee or tea and one person brought a Slushy.
The inaugural VBBS also had something else not normally available in church. It was an opportunity for those in attendance “to speak openly about the gray areas of the Bible,” Rodkey said.
That, and “attracting people we might otherwise not see,” Rodkey said, was the purpose. And, he added, it was successful.
“It was on the level of discourse reserved for seminaries,” he said.
But, the mere fact that Rodkey had the gall to mix beer and the Bible was too much for some people.
“I am in sorrow that the church has come to using alcohol to get people in the door!” Judith Mosebrook wrote in a letter to the editor to the York Daily Record.
“However,” she continued, “this doesn’t surprise me. There are signs of the times all over the world indicating that we are living in the last days, and here is just one more example.”
Not everyone thought that beer and deep theological discussion couldn’t mix.
“My husband and I attended this, and we had a great time,” one woman posted on the YDR Facebook page. “The discussion was fantastic. The type of judgment in the original letter is what turns a lot of people off to religion in the first place (me included).”
St. Paul’s is not the first church to offer beer along with discussion on laic interpretations of the Bible.
It’s not even the only beer-Bible get-together in the area. There are active Theology on Tap groups meeting in Harrisburg, Lancaster and York.
Rodkey said over-drinking was discussed at the beginning of the beer and Bible school.
“It was one of those, ‘It goes without saying but we need to say it….” he said.
Rodkey readily admitted that the beer-Bible school was an attempt to bring new people to the church.
“In that it’s like any other vacation Bible school,” he said.
Rodkey said he did see some new faces.
The naysayers voiced their opinions on Facebook and the St. Paul’s phone line.
But, Rodkey said, everyone who attended the beer and Bible school told him, “You have to do it again.”
Toward that end, he said, another vacation beer and Bible school will be held next summer.
“I genuinely had fun with the format and it gave me a different context to speak than I normally do about the Bible,” Rodkey said.
Information from: York Daily Record, http://www.ydr.com